A New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) operator was killed during a training exercise with American special operations units. On May 7, Lance Corporal Nicholas Kahotea died in a night exercise taking place in the Ardmore training facility. The facility is almost brand new—inaugurated in 2016. It includes a four-story, all-weather special operations training building, which contains numerous shooting ranges, a top-notch “kill house,” a mock aircraft, and a mock ship’s side for maritime counterterrorism practice, among other features. The facility cost approximately $46 million, a serious investment for the small but highly professional and capable New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).
The Chief of the New Zealand Army, Major General John Boswell, said in a statement, “It is with regret that I must inform you of the passing of Lance Corporal Nicholas Kahotea, a soldier, father, friend, and proud New Zealander. Nick passed away last night after sustaining injuries in an NZSOF training activity.”
New Zealand media reported that the NZSAS operators were training alongside an American aviation unit. This could only be the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), which has worked numerous times with international SOF units during the Global War on Terror (GWOT).
According to a spokesperson from the NZDF, the exercise intended to “practice counterterrorism integration techniques between the two countries.”
“Nick will be remembered as a professional soldier,” added the chief of the New Zealand Army. “But more so as a father and friend to many. He was an outstanding soldier and a top bloke. He was a consummate professional who was known for his dedication and reliability—always upholding our core values in every endeavour. I know that his family, friends, and colleagues will be keenly feeling the loss and my thoughts are with them as we remember Nick.”
Lance Corporal Kahotea joined the army in 2006 and initially served as a combat engineer. In 2008, he was attached to the NZSAS as a specialist searcher. He passed the unit’s arduous selection and training course in 2014 and was badged an SAS operator. He had deployed to Afghanistan.
New Zealand’s Acting Defence Minister Winston Peters said, “Our deepest condolences and sympathies go to the family of the New Zealand SAS trooper killed in a training accident last night. As the police and New Zealand Defence Force are investigating the incident, I have no further comment to make at this time.”
As for now, there is still an ongoing investigation to determine the cause of death.